South Beach Wine & Food Festival

“G’day, mate,” he said, extending his left hand (more about that later) and a broad smile.  I was standing in front of Luke Marquis, the global sales lead for Mollydooker Wines of McLaren Vale, Australia.  Luke happens to be the son of Mollydooker founder, owner and chief winemaker Sarah Marquis. Not only that – he’s also the “Blue Eyed Boy” for whom one of their classically Aussie Shiraz wines is named.

Luke Marquis of Mollydooker Wines, McLaren Vale, Australia, at SOBEWFF

I had just finished talking with, and trying the wines of, Jonathan Hirsh, owner of Inception Wines in the Santa Barbara area of California’s Central Coast. The South Beach Food and Wine Festival (SOBEWFF) was on, and Elizabeth and I were attending the Wine Spectator Trade Day event held on the sands of South Beach in Miami, Florida. Stands are mostly under tent. It’s a fun, free-flowing celebration of all things food, wine and spirits-related, and as I was learning, purveyors from all over the world come to South Beach (and many other Wine & Food Festival events around the country) to promote their goods.

Jonathan Hirsh, owner of Inception Wines in the Santa Barbara area of California’s Central Coast

And it’s a wild cornucopia. Wine samplings ranged from Napa Valley’s Trefethen, to the Israeli Wine Producers Association, to Mollydooker of Australia, and Kim Crawford and Oyster Bay (I learned that Pinot Gris is their fastest-growing export wine) of New Zealand, and everything in between. The spirits trade was flush with stalwarts like Aviation, Tito’s, Bombay, High West Distillery and many others, including more tequila and mezcal producers than I could count. All were mixing up sample-sized cocktail potions that delighted and refreshed, fueling enthusiasm for what would come next. Champagne, beer, shochu, spiked seltzers and more were all on tap. As must be obvious, there was no way to sample everything and walk out on your own two feet. (We discovered this after about 45 minutes!)

Walter with a representative from the Israel Wine Producers Association and map of Israeli winemakers

Food vendors provided a welcome diversion. Goya was cooking up fresh street tacos, and local restaurants and some notable chefs offered bit-size samples; the feast was as tempting and diverse as the libations. Entertainers provided a lively backdrop and, for those who were so moved, an opportunity to dance. The SOBEWFF is a multi-day, multi-venue event, and depending on your interest, you could find events hosted by Emeril Lagasse, Giada De Laurentiis, Guy Fieri and more. Interested in shopping for a BMW?  They are there too. All net proceeds from the Festival benefit the Chaplin School of Hospitality & Tourism Management at Florida International University (FIU).

An outdoor section of the SOBEWFF

“Mollydooker is Australian for left-handed,” Luke said, as we shook with our left ands.  Luke was as open, warm and friendly as his Blue Eyed Boy Shiraz is bold and brassy. Seek out both if you get the chance.

Walter is Always at the Center of Wine

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